Division of Labour – Assigning Tasks in such a way as to Enable Specialisation

The division of labour is the process of dividing up labour within a society so that each person can specialize in a particular task. It is based on the idea that people are better suited for certain tasks than others, and that by specializing in one task, they can become more skilled at it.

The division of labour has been an important part of human societies since the beginning of civilization. It allows people to produce more goods and services than they could produce on their own, and it also allows them to specialize in producing certain goods or services. This specialization can lead to increased efficiency and improved economic outcomes.

The practice also has social benefits. It can lead to increased social interaction and cooperation, and it can also help to create social hierarchies.

Evolution of Specialisation

In hunting and gathering societies the division of labour is relatively simple and is organised by age and gender. Men typically hunt while women and children gather. But in more complex societies, the division of labour can be much more elaborate.

The industrial revolution led to a dramatic increase in the division of labour. With the introduction of new technologies, people began to specialize in tasks that they had not previously been involved in. This specialization led to increased efficiency and productivity, and it also had a number of social implications.

The division of labour can be seen as a natural consequence of economic growth. As societies become wealthier, they can afford to specialize in different tasks and to invest in new technologies.

The division of labour can also be seen as a social process, as it is often the result of social interactions and relationships. For example, families and friends may share work tasks, or employers may offer training to employees so that they can specialize in certain tasks.

However, the division of labour can lead to increased inequality, as those who are more skilled or have access to better resources tend to earn more money. It can also lead to social tensions, as people may feel that they are not being fairly compensated for their work. In some cases, the division of labour can also lead to exploitation, as those with less power may be forced to work in unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

Marx on the Division of Labour

While Karl Marx accepted that the division of labour was a more efficient mode of production, he warned that it also leads to the creation of new classes. This is because those who are more skilled or have access to better resources would benefit disproportionately, leading to social tensions when the unskilled realise that they are not being fairly compensated for their work.

He described this phenomenon as Class Consciousness, which occurs when people become aware of their position in society and start to act in accordance with their class interests.

In his book, The Communist Manifesto, Marx famously wrote: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” He believed that the division of labour leads to increased inequality and social conflict, which would eventually lead to a revolution in which the working class would overthrow the ruling class.

Durkheim on the Division of Labour

In his book “The Division of Labour in Society” (1893), Durkheim argued that the division of labour is a necessary and beneficial process. While acknowledging its potential problems, he argued that the division of labour is essential for social cohesion and progress.

He differentiates between mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity.

Mechanical solidarity occurs when people are similar to one another and share the same values and beliefs. This type of society is typically found in small, traditional societies.

In contrast, organic solidarity occurs when people are different from one another and have different values and beliefs. This type of society is typically found in large, modern societies.

Durkheim argued that mechanical solidarity is replaced by organic solidarity as societies become more complex. He coined the phrase “conscience collective” to describe the shared values and beliefs that bind people together in a society.

Anthropology and the Division of Labour

The division of labour is an important aspect of anthropology, as it helps to explain how human societies are organised. It also has implications for economic growth and social inequality. While it can lead to increased efficiency and productivity, it also has the potential to create new classes and to increase social tensions. Therefore, it is important to understand the different theories about the division of labour in order to assess its impact on society.

Related Terms:

Specialization – The process of dividing up labour within a society so that each person can specialize in a particular task.

Technology – The application of scientific knowledge to the practical problems of human life.

Industrial Revolution – A period of time in which there was a dramatic increase in the division of labour, with the introduction of new technologies.

Social Hierarchy – A system in which people are ranked according to their status or power.

Inequality – The state of being unequal, especially in terms of social or economic status.

Exploitation – The act of using someone for your own benefit, often in an unfair or abusive way.

Efficiency – The ability to achieve a desired outcome with the least amount of effort.

Glossary Terms starting with D

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